Paradise Jazz 2012: Remembering Duke and more

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Back in 1941, with the Detroit Symphony having departed two years earlier for cheaper accommodations at Masonic Temple, the shuttered Orchestra Hall came back to life with a new name and a new mission: the Paradise Theatre. What had been the home for Brahms, Bach and Beethoven was saved by big bands steeped in swing, blues and bop.  The Paradise Theatre era lasted for a decade before the hall was shuttered again. The hall came to seem like another doomed citadel of Detroit history, like the nearby, and now gone, Graystone Ballroom. But then came revival efforts beginning in the 1970s that ultimately led to the return of the symphony to a rechristened Orchestra Hall in 1989. But the Paradise Theatre lives on in the name of the DSO's annual jazz series. And it's fitting that for the 2012 Paradise Jazz Series, 70 years after the Paradise Theatre opened its doors, the roster includes the band that played for its inaugural concert: the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Of course, it's the orchestra post-Duke Ellington, and post Duke's son, Mercer, and under the leadership of Mercer's son Paul. The Ellington Orchestra performs on Friday, Dec. 2, 2011, 8 p.m. VID - Duke Ellington Orchestra as they sounded in 1941: And that nod to the swing era is part of a schedule that has a little something for everyone. Whether your forte lies in fiery Latin and spaced-out fusion, or if you prefer a relaxed night soaking in classic straight-ahead and the occasional pop musings, there's something for you. Here are the other scheduled concerts and some videos of the artists. All concerts are at 8 p.m.:

Stanley Clarke Band -- Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011 

Stanley Clarke is undoubtedly one the great pioneers of jazz-rock fusion. Currently, Clarke is touring with his namesake band Return To Forever with long-time collaborators Chick Corea and Lenny White. But this fall show will reunite Clarke with his own band of young apprentices, performing songs off his 2010 release, the self-titled "Stanley Clarke Band," which took last-years' Grammy for Best Jazz Performance.

Stanley Clarke relaxing with his "bass armada" (Photo by Steven Parke)
  Lee Ritenour wsg Dave Grusin - Friday, Jan. 6, 2012 When the words pop and jazz are uttered in the same sentence, nightmarish visions of Kenny G holding one note for hours on end flood the brain. Luckily for Lee Ritenour, the same atrocious association never stuck. Ritenour is hailed as one of the great session players of his time, spending the majority of his early career as a studio sideman and for-hire composer. His various solo releases, which span decades, only solidified his place in the hearts and minds of both the casual listener and the serious player. He will be joined onstage with long-time writing and recording partner Dave Grusin on piano. VID - Ritenour and Grusin finding celestial groove on "Smoke n' Mirrors." :   Gretchen Parlato and Vijay Iyer - Friday, Feb. 17, 2012

Both of these artists have been praised as a guiding light for new artists in the jazz medium. Gretchen Parlato, who has sung on numerous sessions and recordings dating as far back as 1994, has only but begun her impressive career as a solo artist. With her latest album, this year's The Lost and Found, the 35-year-old has set a high standard for female vocalists in all fields. . 

VID - Gretchen Parlato covering Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly": Vijay Iyer, equally as young and as talented, will someday share the ranks with the great pianists of the past. Two parts classical virtuosity and three parts avant garde, Iyer's style is busy, but is easily digestible VID - Vijay Iyer Trio live:    Brad Mehldau wsg Joshua Redman - Thursday, Apr. 5, 2012 Brad Mehldau's solo work can hardly be classified as jazz. In fact, he may not know himself the exact type of music which he is playing at any given moment. Constantly shifting the songwriting landscape, Mehldau captures the spirit of the true instrumentalist. Yet when on stage with powerhouse saxophonist Joshua Redman, the end result is much different, and all jazz. Both are masters of arrangement and improvisation, so expect nothing less from this performance.  VID - Mehldau and Redman sharing the stage in Budapest:   Terrance Blanchard wsg Pancho Sanchez - Friday, May 4, 2012 Blanchard's work is dense and complex, carrying the torch for hard-boppers into the turn of the century. The winner of five Grammy awards, Blanchard has written a multitude of scores for film, most notably the films of Spike Lee. Blanchard will be joined onstage by conga master Pancho Sanchez for a night aptly named "Cuban Be, Cuban Bop."

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